Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October Update: Slowing Down and Gearing Up

My stats this month are kind of sad, but I'll start with them anyway.

Wordcount updates:
  • Words written so far in October: 4,581
  • Words written so far in 2017: 100,164
  • Words written so far on SoM: 51,007

Agent query updates:
  • Rejections: 39
  • Closed (no response): 19
  • Outstanding: 1

So yeah. I have hit my October slump.  The writing has slowed down. Book three has all but ground to a halt (I wrote a thousand more words on it last month but haven't touched it this month). The words I wrote this month were brainstorms for a couple of Cafe stories that I didn't write and a couple queries I've put together for publishers for book one.

Because the queries for literary agents is wrapping up. Just one left, and I should hear back from her within the next couple of weeks. I finally got passes on both agents with partial manuscripts, which was even more devastating than I had been expecting. Having hope makes that kind of thing hurt even more. I'm not sure if I would have been more or less depressed if I hadn't gotten any partial requests at all. Maybe more, because it'd be obvious the book and my query sucked. But maybe less because when I never expected to get interest in the first place, my path forward would have been more clear.

At any rate. Nobody wants this book.

You know what, though? That’s ok. I understand and I don’t take it personally. Diana is hard to like. Urban fantasy is a hard sell right now. And yes, the book is really, really long, for both genre and debut author. Sure, I’m bummed to hell about it. I’m hurt and upset about the rejection and feeling defeated as far as my goals to become a full time writer someday.

But I’m not going to quit.

I kind of subconsciously decided to take this month to mope and lick my wounds, recharge a bit. And next month I’ll attempt NaNo, see how that goes. Then I’ll line edit book two so I can give it to Aron for Christmas and maybe finish up that Cafe story from last December, but then I’m done until January.

And then I'll move on to the next phase of the plan. Next year, I will query a few publishers with book one. While waiting on those, I will focus on finishing book three and editing the first Druid Wars and the first Pandemonium.

But I need to reassess my publishing plan. I knew it was aggressive, but one thing I didn't take very well into account is that I can't keep up summer pace all year.

I always get overambitious in September. Or rather, I have the last two years. I see how well I’m doing and forget that things slow down in the winter. I called my writing icy sludge on Twitter once, and that's an apt metaphor. It’s a river that flows rapidly, eating up obstacles with ease during the spring and summer months. In fall, it slows a bit, but keeps up at least a bit of momentum. But at some point in the winter, ice freezes it solid and nothing gets through. Depending on the weather, it sometimes breaks up a bit and a few things trickle, but I can’t expect the movement in the winter that I get in the summer.

The good news is, that it all balances out. In theory. But I do need to revamp my goals. There’s no way I can write 200k a year. I think 150k might be closer to possible, and even then, maybe more optimistic than realistic. But I can’t let that stop me. I just have to adjust my goals and expectations.

And I have decided I'm not allowed to make a new publishing plan until book three is done. That's just good business. I shouldn't be trying to plan the release of a product that doesn't exist yet. As much as I'd love to release the first two books, since they're mostly done, the trilogy has to be a unit. I have to have all three books done and polished. I have to have the money saved to cover and edit all three. I don't always have to do it that way, but I think it'll be easier on me if I look at it that way.

And besides. If I do end up querying Druid Wars and/or Pandemonium, it may end up that my agent or a publisher wants to know what else I've got. I may not be able to debut with 125k, but maybe if I have another series that does well, I can go back and traditionally publish MystWatch.

I do need to fix up Online Dating for Demons. I realized that it has a greater chance of being picked up not just because it's a different genre and a little bit more strange (although maybe not as original as I had thought at the time), but also because it could be stand-alone. Yes, there is series potential, but the story wraps up, and future books would take place years later. So if an agent or publisher wanted just one book, ODD would hold up.

One final note. I will add that I might be trunking my adventure series. It breaks my heart to have to do it, because I love that character so much. I’ve been working on her since 2004. She’s even older and more dear to me than Diana. But I might need to let her go. To be fair, I was never entirely certain she’d be anything, anyway. I came up with her stuff as a distraction when I was burned out on other things. But it’s getting harder to make myself finish adventures. Also, with the invention of the earbud that can translate something like 40 different languages in nearly real-time, her gift almost seems to be obsolete. I'm not making any permanent decisions on that right now, but I'm not putting her on the schedule for next year. I may end up getting to a Camp NaNo and decide I want to visit her, but I really want to focus on my bigger novel projects next year, not novellas that I will probably never be able to publish.
 
Anyway. All of that is getting ahead of myself. For now, I just need to relax and write. Focus on NaNo. Try to write every day. Don’t be hard on myself when I don’t. I will feel stuck and yucky sometimes, and that’s normal. It usually means something is wrong or I haven’t plotted something out well enough. I've gotten better at getting to the root of the problem and fixing it when that happens.

The stuff with agents and publishing and all that? It doesn’t matter. I’m not ready. I want to be. I want to live the life. But it’s not my time. And there’s no rush. I don’t have to do this by 40. I know that was my goal, but I made that goal to light a fire under my ass so I’d get moving. And I’ve been moving. Every book I finish is another step in the right direction.

That being said, I’m disappointed that I will not achieve a lot of my writing goals this year. I know the first half of the year I was bogged down by depression other stuff. But I have to keep in mind that these years, right now, are kind of a way to assess what I am capable of in a given year, ups and downs included. It gives me some perspective. Without crazy deadlines, I can settle into a natural writing routine, and tracking that for a few years will give me an idea what I can realistically expect of myself. That will be extremely useful if I decide to self-publish, but also will be nice to be able to tell an agent if I ever get representation.

The last seven years have really been about seeing what I can do. I may not get published by 40, but I went from a hobbyist to serious about writing. I've finished novels, learned about the industry, and even submitted my work. I will have a record of what I can achieve in ten years. That will help me from getting bogged down in the small-scale ups and downs of each year and really focus on what I can accomplish.

That is also getting ahead of myself. At ten years, I will have to go back through this blog and make a huge "where am I going, where have I been" post. But I can hit snooze on that for now. I still have some time. Three more years. I can get a ton of stuff done in three years. Maybe not All The Things. But I've come a long way, and I'm not stopping now. I'm picking up steam and finally going places.

It's a slow process. But it's worth it. And I've proven to myself that I am well-equipped to hunker down for the long haul of it.

But for now, NaNo!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

September Update: Stats, The New Plan, and Waxing Philosophical

Starting with stats last time was fun. I think I will do that again.

First, word count updates:
  • Words written so far in September: 18,874
  • Words written so far this year: 93,606
  • Words written so far on SoM: 50,072

I ended up writing over 20k words in August. I got 6k more words written on SoM before the month ended. I finally hit 50k on SoM. My minimum goal before October was to hit 50k, and I waited to update this blog until I hit that point. Now every day I write, I'm that much closer to halfway. It's unlikely I'll actually hit 60k unless I have an epic week (which, who knows, I very well might). I would have to write 1,000 words a day just on SoM to hit it. I've been working on other things, including a Cafe story and a brainstorm for my upcoming NaNo novel. I dunno. It's do-able. But I'm not going to kill myself for it. I'm really happy with my progress, so anything beyond this point is gravy.

Here's an update on where I'm at with literary agent queries:

  • Partial requests: 2
  • Rejections: 33
  • Closed (no response): 20
  • Outstanding: 3
The partials are at 104 and 63 days, respectively. I have no idea when/if I will ever hear back from either of those. I will probably nudge the 104-day one when it hits 120 days, and it sounds like the 63-day one is behind because of traveling but is looking at partials requested from about a month before mine at this point. I'm really hoping to hear back from both of those before the end of the year, because there's a very well-respected small press that will be open to unagented manuscripts during November and December. I really want to submit to them, so fingers crossed I have answers on all my queries by then. That may mean that I don't send it to that one last agent on my list (she opened to queries early, I'm so mad about that), but that's ok. Of the last three outstanding queries, I expect to hear back from one in about two weeks and one in about a month. The last one I may never hear from and will therefore close out at 90 days. Oh. I did get a 119-day rejection on one of the submissions I had closed out.

So that's where I'm at as far as stats.

Here's where I'm at as far as my plan. I will throw my book at two or three publishing companies (two if I don't make the Angry Robot open door window). That will probably take most of next year. I know Tor and DAW both take like, six months or something like that, and they are exclusive, so you can only send to one at a time.

But I think that's the only submission I will be doing next year.

It took a lot of reflection and at least three months' worth of this writing blog to realize...that I need to take next year off and just focus on writing and editing. I want to spend a year without the distraction of submission to just write more books and clean up existing books. It may well be the very last year to just be creative with no pressure to do more.

And then, if all of the agents and all of the publishers have rejected MoL, I will spend 2019 finding editors and cover designers and will begin the self-publication process. I should have enough saved to edit and cover all three books. And then, I will begin to release them in 2020.

I will have a release every other month, putting out the whole trilogy in one year, with short stories between them. The shorts will be about my supporting dudes--a Makai story that's already written (although it's only 4k now, so I might work to stretch it out to 5k) and a Shane story that goes between books two and three--and then at the end of the year, collect them all and put out a box set.

In the two years it takes me to write, edit, and prepare the Huntress trilogy for publication, I'll focus on writing books two and three of Druid Wars. That way, in 2021, I will follow the same formula and put out the Druid Wars trilogy, with shorts in between (one being a story I wrote for the Cafe that I will probably tweak). Hopefully by then, I will have a reliable editor and cover artist so I won't have to wait too long to get stuff back from them.

And then, in the year that those are going out, I will work on writing books two and three of Pandemonium. Hopefully I'll get book one cleaned up in my year of writing and editing next year. And then starting in 2022, I might....MIGHT...release book one and then start releasing a season of Sally Prescott between each book. If I write two to three adventures of SP a year, I should be well into season three, if not finished with season three by then. The idea behind that is to have more time to write the Pandemonium books by putting out other stuff I've already written. But, hey, if things go well, maybe I can follow the same formula with that series instead (I already have an idea for one of the shorts), and potentially just release two seasons of SP a year and then put out the SP novel. I dunno, though. Three years of Sally Prescott without anything else might be a bit much. I might have to ask my mentor (Rachel!!) what she thinks.

And after that? Who knows. That's five years of doing a new NaNo novel every year, so I will, in theory, have other worlds to choose from.

Although this year, I'm using NaNo to get out of my comfort zone to write something that's magical realism instead of urban fantasy. And it'll probably be stand-alone. So. Erm. I dunno where that fits, or if it'll even be a decent book that I can publish.

Anyway. As I've mentioned, I want to keep doing NaNo every year so I have a month to do something fun and outside of the box. Without the pressure of it having to fit into my regular genres or be marketable. Although of all the agent MSWL I've read, many of them want the next Practical Magic, so hey, maybe I'll get an agent based on this book I have yet to write. Or maybe it'll go under my pseudonym. Or maybe it'll go in the trunk. Regardless, I am planning to have fun with it. It's all witchy and October and kind of grown-up and literary. I want to spend lots of words describing things about fall and evoke some feelings and...I dunno. I want to be a middle-aged woman, I guess.

That has been a worry of mine lately. Am I getting out of my New Adult, fantasy setting type novels? I hope not. I'm kind of relying on writing at least four series in that genre over the next ten years. And I had always planned on going back to Fractured Worlds in my 40s, when I feel like I might be better able to build other fantasy worlds. I can't be done with fantasy yet, can I?

And the answer to that is probably no. But I've outgrown a lot of my new adult angst. I've mostly accepted Mom's passing. I've mostly gotten past relationship drama and very intense young person ideas of love. The kinds of things that appealed to me when in was in my 20s doesn't necessarily resonate with me anymore. That doesn't mean I can't still write it. I probably will.

But maybe the next five years' worth of NaNo will be my chance to explore more adult, middle-aged issues. Maybe my protagonist in this year's NaNo will actually be married instead of just having a girlfriend. Or maybe not. But I want her in an established, healthy, supportive relationship. An adult relationship where they learn about things and each other together. It's a journey they go through as a couple, experiencing everything along the way. She's not discovering her sexuality or falling in love, she just is in love and is a lesbian, and that's part of the story but not what the plot is.

Anyway. That was a serious TL;DR tangent.

I waxed philosophical.

Back on track, now.

Yeah. I made a schedule for my self-publication. It's a bit aggressive. It relies on me being able to write about 200k a year. I may not be able to maintain that. Although I did find out at work today that I can drop to 32 hours and still be considered full time. I could actually take Fridays off and still get full benefits. I wouldn't get the eight hours of pay, and that would add up, but. If I was making a supplemental income from selling books, I could maybe afford to take that extra day to write or do freelance editing. It's something to consider. And I am in a workplace that I think would entertain the idea. But in two or three years...I may not even have this job anymore, depending on funding. So. I can't rely on that eventuality. Also, if Jack ends up quitting his job to go back to school, we might need me to work full time and publish books to make do.

So yeah. Lots of things to think about, but I'm not going to worry about any of them now. Having given myself next year to just write and edit has really taken a great load off. I have been super productive since then.

And while part of me may want to query Druid Wars next year, I may not do it officially. I may do Twitter pitches and throw it at one or two of my top agents, but probably not. It's hard to not jump in fully after dipping your toe in the water.

Seriously. Querying is like gambling. It's addictive.

I'm gonna wrap this up, now. The big takeaways from this month are that I'm still waiting on agents, I have made great progress on book three, and I may even get my fifth Cafe story for the year turned in.

Oh, that is one last thing I was thinking about. I may drop down to only three stories next year instead of six. I'll keep it running, but I mostly want to write things I can monetize eventually. Although putting out a short story collection might be a nice way to fill gaps in my publication schedule...

Haha. Ok. Really am done now.

Until October!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

August Update: Stats and Plans

I'm going to start this entry with some stats, just for funsies.

First, some word count updates:
  • Words written so far in August: 14,005
  • Words written so far this year: 68,684
  • Words written so far on SoM: 30,362

So that's coming along.

I even wrote a Cafe story this month, so I've now written four stories for the Cafe so far. Only two more to meet my goal for the year.

Here's an update on where I'm at with literary agent queries:
  • Partial requests: 2
  • Rejections: 31
  • Closed (no response): 21
  • Outstanding: 5

The longest I've waited for a response so far was 82 days. The fasted was two days. I've closed a couple out at 121 days, but mostly I close them between 60-80 days. It's been 76 days since the request for 100 pages and 35 days since the request for the first 10 pages.

I expect to be waiting on the partials for at least another 1-3 months.

I still have one more I want to query when she opens in October, and that will make 60.

After that, I have some decisions to make.

Or rather, I've made some decisions already, but after all that, we'll see if they stick.

One thing I've been worried about the whole time querying MoL is that it's too long. It's too long for the genre and too long for a debut author. A rejection I received yesterday confirmed that.

And while I know all that is arbitrary, and if an agent truly loves the project and my writing, word count is something they will either overlook or plan on working with me to pare down. But I've thought more than once that it might be what's keeping me from finding an agent for this book.

I just keep coming back to the fact that this book was the book of my heart. Yes, I could cut it down to meet some arbitrary industry standard. Truth is--and call me a diva for this--but I don't want to. For better or worse, it is what I want it to be. Everything I left in I felt was important to the plot or the larger world or series.

So maybe I don't debut with this novel. Maybe I debut with something else. Maybe, once I've gotten a "no" or gotten no response from all 60 agents, I trunk it. Trunk the whole series. Not forever. Maybe just until I write a few more books in different worlds that are shorter or don't have vampires or whatever else they keep passing on it for. Maybe when I have some fans, maybe an agent, I can say, hey, any interest in this complete trilogy with series potential? It may not be a best-selling series, but it might make us a few extra bucks. And they can be like, sure, we liked your shorter stuff. Let's see how this longer stuff does. Or if they don't want to take the chance, then I'll self-publish it.

And maybe they're right. Maybe it's too long. Maybe people won't read it. Maybe Emily and Aron and the girls and Jack are the only ones who will ever actually like it because they know me and they know Lawrence.

But I can't see having three books finished and ready for a professional editor as ever being a bad thing.

So. My goal for the next couple of months is to get as much of SoM written as I can. I know after NaNo I'll lose momentum and it might not get finished until next year. But. If I can leave it at 50k-60k, at least I'll have a solid foundation to work from. My first goal was to get it to 30k. It's harder to walk away from something that big. If I can double that in the next month or two, I will feel ok about setting it aside for NaNo and the holidays.

And hell, if I hit November 1 and it's still going like it has been the last week (I had a 4k day today and a 2k day a couple days ago and a couple 1.5k days before that...although I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that most of the month, I had mostly zero days and a few 250-word days), I may not want to stop. I may skip NaNo and my Something New to finish this up. And that's ok, too.

But I've learned my fucking lesson with this. No more 125k-word books. At least not that I want to query.

Although Druid Wars 1, my next big project I plan on querying, is too short, coming in at less than 70k. Oiy. I just can't win, here. Online Dating for Demons I think is even shorter (although I have plans to beef it up in the dev edit).

Why can't I just write the books I want to write and tell them in however many words they need to be told in?

I guess I can if I self-publish. Yet another compelling reason to skip traditional publishing completely.

That being said, I may not revisit the self-publishing idea for another year or two. I don't have to do this all now or even next year. I can take my time.

That's kind of been the theme of the last few updates.

I've got time.

I just need to relax and just write.

I still have over three years to reach my goal. I'm only 36. And hey, if it takes until I'm 41 or 45 or even 50, so be it. There's no rush. The longer I wait, the more I have ready to publish.

So just relax and write. And keep writing.

No matter what, just keep writing. That's the only part that really matters in all of this.